Monthly competition July 2021

About Forums Den of Writers Monthly Competition Monthly competition July 2021

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  • #10466
    Libby
    Participant

    The other day I discovered that sabulous means sandy or gritty. For this month’s competition please use sand and/or grit as a prompt for a piece of fiction or non-fiction, word range 100 – 500. You can use the word sabulous itself if you wish but you don’t have to.

    Be literal at least some of the time. If a problem is figuratively gritty, let it somehow have actual particles too.

    Deadline is midnight on Sunday 31st July.

    #10505
    Sandra
    Participant

    “Above the tideline”
    first line provided by Thomas A Clarke

    Above the tideline, an old blue rope is entangled in a bramble bush. I gaze at it while retying my hair, turning to face into the wind, risking the scratch of sand beneath my already sore eyelids; its crunching against my teeth.
    Sand, salt and shell fragments speckle the twists of it, a spicing of orange and white, black-peppered with spiky-tailed globes, snapped brittle from bladder wrack.
    Its fading, from a vivid turquoise – a Sagittarian promise to heal – and it’s imprisonment, in once-fruitful but now sere and dusty brown branches, sharp-thorned and twisted, offers a too-vivid metaphor, reminding me I’m here to make a decision as to whether or not I intend to end our sabulous, crumbling marriage.

    [This is a version of a challenge set for the SE2014 group. Apologies for re-use, but I’m away next week and this might be all I’ve time for]

    #10506
    Athelstone
    Moderator

    Sand

    Mum was a good woman. I say was; I mean is. She’s still alive. But since the diagnosis of dementia, well, for a long while before that, I knew she was slipping away.

    She sits with me as I work.

    I have a phone to repair. A capacitor has failed, a tiny surface-mount component. It is fiddly and the manufacturer won’t replace it. But I will. I explain what I’m doing to Mum. It isn’t likely that she listens to much, or understands when she does, but the sound of talking relaxes her. I have on my loupe glasses and I push them up to look at her. She’s smiling and I take her hand.

    ‘This one’s boring. There’s a laptop next. You’ll prefer that—bits everywhere. Just like when you stitched that patchwork quilt for the church.’

    ‘Church,’ she says, and nods.

    There’s something hard, maybe a grain of salt at the base of her thumb. I can feel it, but it doesn’t seem to want to move, so I flip down the glasses and lift her hand into the light. Her skin is shiny and traversed by sharp-edged valleys at this magnification. There’s whatever it is, like an embedded boulder. Gently, with some needle-nose tweezers, I pry it free and transfer it to the microscope. Well, how curious; it’s sand.

    ‘When did you last go to the beach, Mum?’

    ‘Beach,’ she says.

    On Wednesday there are half a dozen grains and on Thursday still more. The nurse says she has no idea where they’re coming from. Mum’s room is spotless. She’ll check again and make sure she has a good wash.

    On Friday the back of her hand is coated with sand. I clean what I can away, but under the lens things look strange. The skin is pitted as though the sand has been forced in, or has replaced the epidermis. Saturday’s harvest is even worse, but it’s pointless to question her. She simply smiles.

    ‘Sand castles.’

    I let her alone on Sunday. The nurse has dressed her in her best dress and her hands hidden below a scarf. She listens to the Sunday Service on the radio. I wonder how much she takes in, but later she surprises me by singing along to Songs of Praise.

    09:15 on Monday. Mum has just been wheeled into the workroom, and I’m very busy. Things drift, and it’s nearly noon when I sit back. Mum is staring into space somewhere beyond my desk and with a shock of guilt, I see a tear running down her cheek. Without thinking, I reach out. Her hand feels rough. My fingers, sticky with soldering flux, are covered in sand.

    Before I can stop myself, I reach out again. Her hand crumbles where I touch her and the crumbling spreads, her sleeve emptying before my eyes. In horror, I cry out.

    ‘Mum!’

    But it’s too late. She’s gone.

    486 with title

    #10553
    Libby
    Participant

    A quick reminder to anyone interested in this month’s competition that we are half way through the month. Here’s a repost of the details:

    The other day I discovered that sabulous means sandy or gritty. For this month’s competition please use sand and/or grit as a prompt for a piece of fiction or non-fiction, word range 100 – 500. You can use the word sabulous itself if you wish but you don’t have to.

    Be literal at least some of the time. If a problem is figuratively gritty, let it somehow have actual particles too.

    Deadline is midnight on Sunday 31st July.

    #10560
    Knicks
    Participant

    Will see what I can do between now and the deadline, Libby 😊✨

    #10566
    Knicks
    Participant

    Grit

    The crunch of ice between my teeth – cold edges, agitated nerves, sabulous sensitivity. All coalescing into sharp points of pleasure in my body, my brain. Soothing. Assuasive. Momentary. Cup after cup of chipped ice; euphoria only until they are empty. Nausea quickly returning.

    The grit of sand and salt and soap beneath my fingers, the fine powdery textures a more lasting calm. Good wards for bad memories, and worst choices, and keeping unwanted thoughts at bay. But I can only wash and cook and visit the beach for so long before I must again return to myself.

    The roughness of baking soda toothpaste scraping my tongue as I brush for the fifth time in one day. Five brushings for five pukes. The corroded enamel of my teeth, stones battered by time and waves of vomit. By the time she is born, I would have stopped smiling in photos and with my eyes.

    Dirt behind my eyelids, no matter how carefully I clean them. Clean eyes, soiled vision. And soil isn’t just good for growing life. It’s good for growing death too. I could scrub for years and years and never be clean, here on these desert shores, where death and life both flourish within me.

    A dusting of ash is all that remains of that time now. After the eruption of esophageal trauma and peptic ulcers; after losing my tooth; and a lot of myself; and a bit of my mind; after the stretched skin and mummy’s carpel tunnel, I can feel my smile returning at last. To eyes still angry with grit.

    But touched by clearer vision.

    And a soul with grit of its own, far stronger than I ever possessed.

    284 words with title

    #10590
    Libby
    Participant

    One week left for the monthly competition!

    Here are the requirements:

    The other day I discovered that sabulous means sandy or gritty. For this month’s competition please use sand and/or grit as a prompt for a piece of fiction or non-fiction, word range 100 – 500. You can use the word sabulous itself if you wish but you don’t have to.

    Be literal at least some of the time. If a problem is figuratively gritty, let it somehow have actual particles too.

    Deadline is midnight on Sunday 31st July.

    #10594
    Squidge
    Participant

    It was the same every year.

    She took as many precautions as possible, wrapping everything carefully, keeping the box closed tight until the right moment came, making sure her hands were washed clean when it did.

    And then…

    Ordering everyone to sit down, sit still. Questioning each participant in turn to make sure she knew their exact requirements. Each component carefully extracted – no more taken than was needed – to reduce the risk. Assembling the whole, and then with utmost care and attention, handing it over to the one it was intended for, before beginning the next assemblage.

    And yet, without fail, there would still be the unsatisfied cry:

    “Muuum! There’s sand in my sandwiches!”

    114 words, and written with love for my mum, who always made the sarnies on our holidays x

    #10595
    Seagreen
    Participant

    EMERGENCE

    You stand alone, in the northwest corner of the cellar deck, gloved hands resting on the handrail and face tilted to the sun.

    Breathe in.
    Breathe out.

    Above you, clouds rag-roll an azure sky, while beneath you, an aging platform sways to the rhythm of the North Sea.

    Breathe in.
    Breathe out.

    Solitude. It catches you unawares, embracing you in otherworldliness. You lean into it, and trust your soul to something outwith your capacity to understand.

    Breathe in.
    Breathe out.

    A gust of cooling, salt-laden air, sweeps across the I-beam, and grains of crushed garnet spiral downward to the sea.
    A different you emerges from a moment forever suspended in time.

    Relax.

    Just breathe.

    (115 words)

    #10620
    Libby
    Participant

    Wow! This is the best collection of stories I’ve read in response to a single competition. They’re a joy to read and completely daunting to judge.

    What impressed me most, on top of all the individual skills displayed, is that every piece is such a distinct rendition of the author’s voice. I’ve read most of you before and could recognise you in the various styles. Needless to say, all the stories are a marvellous interpretation of the challenge.


    @sandradavies
    ‘Above the Tideline’ is terrific. What wonderful use of vocabulary and imagery all honed into a really effective succinctness. The whole piece is a great metaphor for painful unhappiness. I had the pleasure of looking up what you meant by Sagittarian in this context. Learning something new is always interesting. Thank you too for enabling me to discover https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poet/thomas-clark/


    @athelstone
    ‘Sand’ is a perfect story with a wonderful magical quality which works so well against an ‘ordinary’ background. The story is well balanced, well paced and poignant. As with Sandra’s piece I especially enjoyed the language. The plain vocabulary is deceptively simple but the precise technical details (I love technical details in story) give a sense of the narrator and his wider world. Very enjoyable.


    @knickylaurelle
    I loved ‘Grit’. An account of trauma which is punchy and evocative but never overdone, and showing someone growing stronger. Their trauma and road towards recovery – will full recovery be achieved or will the anger last? – feels as though it might have a mythical or superhuman aspect. The style, setting and unsettling atmosphere remind me of Mark Haddon’s short stories. Again, what wonderful use of vocabulary.


    @Squidge
    – this picture of a beach picnic is a delight! That’s exactly how it was: a mother’s care and time, all that effort she put in which never quite solved the problem. I love the tone, the description and the contrast in the excellent last line. Comic and touching. And lovely sentences, perfectly formed. A pleasure to read.


    @seagreen
    I was captivated by ‘Emergence’, your poem or prose poem; I wasn’t sure which category it falls into but that didn’t matter. The language is strong and delicate at the same time and uses just the right amount of technical detail to set the scene (strong theme of technical language in this competition 🙂 ). I love the evocative imagery of an aging oilrig subjected to changing weather, the threat in the cooling air. Is the rig collapsing – the crushed garnet a reference to debris, maybe a garnet-hinge (I had to look it up but it seemed to fit!)? Or is the presence of garnet protective and the character’s transformation something safer than an approaching death? The ambiguity I read into the piece fascinated me.

    Every one of these entries would be a worthy winner. Eventually, because I kept being drawn back to it, I picked ‘Emergence’.

    Over to you @seagreen

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by Libby.
    #10622
    Sandra
    Participant

    Brilliantly well done Seagreen, and thank you Libby for the challenge, your insightful comments and for picking my favourite as winner, though all were enjoyable variations on the theme.

    #10623
    Athelstone
    Moderator

    Libby, thanks for a super topic and the fabulous reviews. Seagreen, a well-deserved win.

    #10624
    Knicks
    Participant

    Thank you for hosting this month’s comp, Libby, and for your thoughtful words on my piece. And congratulations, Seagreen, I thought your piece was wonderfully evocative. I enjoyed each entry for this month.


    @Libby
    Grit was about my rather difficult pregnancy, and how the only peace and pleasure I found (from the daily waves of nausea and hostile alien terraforming of my body) was in the texture of gritty things. Definitely unsettling. Definitely worth it.

    #10625
    Seagreen
    Participant

    You know, I’m always surprised when I win the monthly comp (not that it happens often!) but never more so than this time. Such strong entries – I did feel mine was a little lightweight in comparison.

    Thank you, @Libby, for hosting the comp and for such fabulous feedback, and thanks to Ath, Sandra, Squidge and Knicky for making me work harder to measure up.

    Emergence is about my first ever time offshore – a newly qualified paint inspector, daunted beyond words. I can’t remember how it came about, but at some point during the trip, the fireproofing inspector left and I was asked to take over his duties. What did I know about fireproofing? Absolutely nothing. I was totally out of my depth. That afternoon on the cellar deck was a turning point for me. The fireproofers had gone to lunch and it was so calm and peaceful, I could have been the only person on the rig. Call me fanciful, but I knew then that I was exactly where I wanted to be.

    Crushed garnet was the medium used to blast the corroded steel. Like pink sand, it found its way into every nook and cranny, and lay on every flat surface you could find.

    #10627
    Sandra
    Participant

    @Seagreen, the ‘lightweight’ of your entry was in the well-chosen words; that they so well-expressed the solidity, the impact of that moment was the really clever bit. Thank you for this explanation.

    #10638
    Libby
    Participant

    That’s interesting @knickylaurelle – makes me enjoy the piece even more. I think it’s hard to write well about one’s own experiences – at least I find it so!

    #10639
    Libby
    Participant

    Ah yes, I wondered about the various roles of garnet @seagreen after I’d started looking it up. I’d no idea. It’s very interesting. Geology in general, not just the applied stuff, always feels like a significant gap in my knowledge.

    Those rigs have a fascination even for a landlubber like me. The meeting of elements perhaps. At sea but fixed – all those things which I’m sure everyone has pointed out to you over the years 🙂

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